Joseph Maina is an Agrifinance Fellow working in the cereals value chain. In this interview, he takes us through his work day and reveals his ambitious plan to enlist at least 30,000 young people in the cereals business in order to secure employment and incomes for them.
Who is Joseph, the food systems leader?
Joseph is an enthusiastic agribusiness and marketing specialist with over 12 years’ experience drawn from corporate, private, public and NGO sectors in East Africa. He holds a Master’s Degree in Agribusiness and Project Management which, combined with his work in production, processing, value addition, Agri-marketing and agricultural policies gives him deep understanding of food systems in the region. His quest is to offer workable interventions to the food system in Kenya and beyond resulting in meaningful incomes for small scale farmers and young people, and ultimately achieving food security in the country.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I sell cereals to wholesalers and retailers. My day starts at 7.30am with stock taking note to figure out which pulses, legumes and cereals are in the warehouse and the retail shop. I then touch base with cereal markets in the region to gather price changes for various produce from the previous day then update my prices to reflect market rates. Thereafter, I reach out to the field staff to get produce availability information in different regions which assists us in planning our deliveries and orders. Mostly we work with aggregators and farmers’ group to command volumes and ensure consistency. The rest of the day is occupied by market sourcing, administrative duties, and sourcing for collaborations and partnerships. I end most of my days at 8pm.
What is the most exciting thing that you are currently working on, and why does it matter for food systems?
Youth agri-prenuership; our current approach involves deliberately sourcing cereal produce from youth groups from major cereal producing counties. Although we’re still in the early stages, we are putting our best food forward to attract more youthful farmers in agribusiness by building their capacity in agri-prenuership and agribusiness. Our target is to have more than 30,000 youth involved in agribusiness at any stage of the cereal value chains. We are piloting this approach in Meru, Makueni, Kitui, Machakos, Tharaka Nithi, Busia and Homa-bay Counties and our target value chains include ground nuts, beans, green grams and sorghum.
If you were president of Kenya for a day, which is the one issue or challenge in your industry that you would solve immediately?
Arable land use. I would impose stern measures prohibiting sub-division of arable land and set it aside for agricultural production. This would boost food security for the country and allow food producers to scale their operations for more profit.
Looking back on your journey, what would you do differently?
I would get more involved in campaigning for agricultural development in Kenya through linking all stakeholders in the food system for a holistic and collective approach in addressing challenges.
You have just joined the African Food Fellowship. What are you most looking forward to in your journey with us?
During my time at the African Food Fellowship, I hope to gather more workable insights on attracting youth into agriculture and also get practical approaches in addressing food insecurity at farm level, low incomes for small scale farmers and finally address the huge food import bill in Kenya.